Sunday, March 15, 2009

Response to a reader

I have to respond to a reader trying to highlight some of the fallacious thinking that pollutes clear thinking. Very important in my view. Focus on arguments not on the person who makes the argument!!!
I have been following your blog for a long time... You actually provide good information most of the time. I wonder if you have a bias against stutterers (you say stutterers who do research are biased). Is this is what you believe? Then you are biased too...
It is completely irrelevant if someone is biased or not. The only important issue is the quality of the argument, and not who proposed it and whether the person is biased. It is a very very common fallacy. Even if I am 100% biased, a serial killer, or a fluent person, my argument does not suddenly become more or less valid. Watch political debate! For example, criticism on Israel policies in the US: someone makes a fair point, he is labelled an anti-Semite, and by default his argument is invalid because he is biased. Interestingly, the same fair point is made in Israel by Jews! As they cannot be labelled anti-Semites, these Jews are then labelled pacifists, dreamers or self-haters (induced by anti-Semite propaganda), and that's why the argument is invalid!

6- I read extensively on neuroscience and actually taking university courses in the field.
Ok, when will you get your MS or PhD in Neuroscience? And which University?
It is not relevant whether I have a MSc or PhD in neuroscience to comment on neuroscience. Watch my arguments not my background. If my lack of background leads to wrong conclusions, then you must have a valid counterargument. But I do take courses in neuroscience at the Open University in London. One is called Damaged Brains and Neural Networks, and the other is Biological Psychology . And so far I have scored 75% in both essays without too much work.

More importantly, who are the researchers and therapists that you debated with in the past?
It is not really relevant to the strength of an argument. But I have talked to many different scientists and therapists, and they often send me emails with new research.

If the debates b/w you and the Lidcombe people were judged, you would have LOST, correct? Only 1% of the people agree with you.
Which debates? There are effectively no debates. Only 3-4 times did they make some comments after my talks at conferences, e.g.: "You are wrong, because the statistics have been calculated by a statistician." And after a few counter-arguments, they don't say anything any more. I am wondering why? In fact, many people argue with me, especially therapists who see that the claims from the trials do not fit their reality. But I would rather say that only 1% understand my arguments, and that is a problem.
And even if no-one agrees with me, I do not care. It does not invalidate my argument. I only change my mind if faced with a good counterarguments and not by social consensus pressure.
For example, Greg (semi-serious stuttering researcher is making fun of you) pays attention to your blog, but who else? Who knows if people are laughing at you behind your back....
1000 different people per week read my blog. So where is the argument here? You want to make me feel bad? Greg just pointed out a funny story. It is you who doesn't get the subtleties! But I agree with you that Greg is only a semi-serious researcher but he is improving - reading my blog helps! I am sure there are some people laughing about me, but what they do not realise it that they are the fools, not me! I often get condescending comments and when I give counterarguments, they suddenly realise it is them who is the fool. They had not really considered the counterargument...

I think you want your blog to have a bigger impact over time, right? Respect = impact. Keep up the good work!
Again. Science is not about making friends. I am saying what is on my mind, and on the mind of many others who do not dare or cannot speak out. That's why they respect me. I have high respect for the argument itself, but I do not care about who the people are who make the arguments. And I also do not care whether people feel hurt about me telling them that they are talking non-sense.


Greg said...

Ha! I'm laughing Tom... :)

Glad to have made it on the "researcher" continuum; I'm just wondering how semi-serious is quantified, and where I can find myself on the spectrum :)

If we ever met and had time for a pint, I'd explain that all human behavior-based research is (by default) semi-serious by nature. As Feynman would put it, it's cargo-cult science.

We can follow the scientific process, but internal validity in behavioral "science" is a very serious problem. There is no pure stimulus-response when it comes to humanity. There is a space between stimulus - response (called human choice and/or unconscious autonomic human responses) that undermine internal validity and thus our 'scientific' findings.

I recognize this, and see the futility in much (if not most) of stuttering research. And due to this scientific futility, I'm more tolerant of the self-empowerment based stuttering therapy than others in the emerging neurophysiological stuttering perspective. So if this makes me semi-serious, then I'll gladly wear that badge w/ pride :)

Semi-Serious Stuttering Researcher
(will squat on domain:

Anonymous said...

You said: only 1% understand my arguments, and that is a problem.

I would say that is a BIG problem.

Are you going to Brazil or not? Hope you will go, because not many people will be able to attend. It will be good for you! You have to put the money where your mouth is!

Tom Weidig said...

Greg, I was joking!!! :-) You are a very serious person!

Ano: Look my statistical arguments are a bit complicated and so you need to be good at maths to understand. For example, Prof Ingham at Santa Barbara and his colleague re-did the computations, and they agree with me. But the vast majority cannot understand the argument and so ignore it. There is nothing I can do. They will notice when the results clash with reality, i.e. the long-term results are less satisfactory.

I wont go to Brazil. It costs a lot of money, and I spent so much time writing this blog. And money on other conferences. If someone invites me, I am happy to go.

Anonymous said...

I like to point out that you are maybe "friends" with Roger Ingram at UCSB. You visited them...

Why would anyone invite you? You must be joking....your biggest claim to fame is you have a PhD in Theoretical Physics (you are happy making calculations, modeling, and talking). You got some credibility because you have a Science PhD.

No doubt, if you didn't have a PhD in Physics, your blog would be ignored and dismissed.


Greg said...

James, what is your purpose in life? Seriously?

I hardly know where to begin.

Good content always rises to the top. As does vision.

Tom has demonstrated, for years, that he has both.

Anonymous said...


The obvious question is, why do you read Tom's blog if you think that it should be ignored?


Anonymous said...

To Greg: seriously, what is your purpose in life? (I would be able to answer my question if you can provide me your answers). This is called learning by doing/observing/copy cat.

To George: you are absolutely right. Are there other blogs (related to stuttering) worth reading? I would be interested. Tom's blog is a C+ blog, but still #1 in the field of stuttering I think.

I would be REALLY interested in other blogs related to stuttering comparable to Tom's blog or better than. So please let me know...

To Tom: I just wanted you to improve your quality. That is all. I do enjoy reading it from time to time. But you do have to agree that having a rigorious science background (in a diff. field, Physics) makes people pay some attention to you and can't just dismiss you as a joke. The worst thing is getting ignored. This why I wish more people are willing to debate with you, rather than ignore you. So keep fighting so you are not ignored. (And I know you are a smart stutterer, talked to therapists, belonged to the BSA research committee, presented before). But the bottom line is you are NOT in the field like Greg and has little to lose. Your field is investment banking, was Physics.